"Bon jour, Guinevere," Nigel said with a slaughtered French accent as he made a sweeping bow.
"Oh, Papi, look, it's Lancelot, or at least I think that's who he's supposed to be." Page exclaimed, hanging onto Vaughn's arm as she grinned coquettishly at Nigel.
Vaughn scowled but kept his peace for the moment, saying with feigned cordiality, "Welcome, Lancelot. I am Sir Arthur and this is, as you have surmised, my wife Guinevere."
One of the women standing nearby, who was dressed, Nigel thought, as Carmen, fluttered her eyelashes and her fan when he glanced in her direction. The man standing next to her in a matador's outfit frowned as deeply as Vaughn had, muttering "Show off" as he wrapped his arm tightly around his woman.
Page, overhearing the man, said in a stage whisper to the woman, "And he has a lot to show off."
Now Vaughn let his presumed anger rise to the surface. He took Page's hand, starting to lead her away. She resisted, telling him in no uncertain terms that he did not own her, despite what he might think. They held a short, heated discussion that ended with his slapping her face, much to the shock of the onlookers, before he stomped away.
* * * *
Nigel, playing knight errant, started after him only to be stopped by Page who grabbed his arm while rubbing her cheek where Vaughn's hand had left a dark red print.
"Please, don't cause any more of a scene than he already has," she begged.
Nigel hesitated, glaring at Vaughn's vanishing back, and then asked Page, "Are you all right? Would you like to sit down or—something?"
"She needs a drink," one of the female party-goers stated in no uncertain terms. "What a bastard," she added.
"No, she needs to sit down, or lie down," another woman put in.
"I—" Page sighed, touching her cheek again with her fingertips.
"If you'll find her somewhere to sit, I'll get her a drink," Nigel told the two women.
They immediately took charge of Page, leading her to one side of the room, followed by their menfolk and several other couples.
Vaughn waited until he saw Nigel start toward the bar, and then walked back to Page from where he'd been watching from across the room. He began to apologize profusely for his jealousy, she refused to accept that, and soon they were having a full-blown argument that attracted even more onlookers.
With everyone's attention focused on the couple, Nigel slipped out of the room. He stopped at the bottom of a long staircase that swept up to the second floor. A security guard was standing there, arms crossed over his chest.
Nigel, with an extremely worried look on his face now, said, "There's a man in the ballroom that, I'm afraid, is going to do something quite violent to his wife if someone doesn't step in. There's a crowd watching but—" He shrugged, shaking his head.
Nigel could see the conflicting thoughts crossing the guard's face. His job was to keep anyone from going upstairs, but the idea that a woman could be in trouble, or worse, obviously did not sit well with him. Finally he came to a decision. "Show me," he ordered, indicating that Nigel should come with him to the ballroom.
Nigel led the way, stepping back into the room with the guard right behind him. At that moment, Page let out a shrill cry of fear. The guard immediately hurried toward her, leaving Nigel where he was. Seconds later Nigel was back at the staircase. After one quick check to make certain no one was watching, he walked swiftly up to the second floor.